New York State Assembly Guide to Senior Citizen Programs


Dear Friend,

This pamphlet is designed to acquaint you with some of the special programs and services available to senior citizens in New York State.

Since this is intended as a general introduction to a wide range of programs, you may find you have special questions not answered here. In that case, you should contact the federal, state or local agency administering the program.

Keep in mind these programs have been designed to help meet your needs, so if youíre not sure which agency to turn to, or if you encounter any problems in your search for assistance, please donít hesitate to call me.

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Home Care

Our community health care agencies offer a wide range of home care services to meet your individual needs. Payment may be covered under Medicare or Medicaid, depending on a doctorís recommendation and your age and income. If you have other health insurance, contact your insurance agent or examine your policy for possible home care coverage.

For information on how you can obtain home care services, call your local Office of the Aging or County Health Department. There are a variety of different home health care providers, and the cost of these services can vary.

Protective Services

More and more senior citizens are living independently. Unfortunately, some are frail and in ill health, often needing assistance. If you are concerned that an elderly friend, relative or neighbor is living at risk alone, contact your County Department of Social Services for help. The department will send someone to visit and assess the situation firsthand to determine the kind of help they need.

Tax Relief

In order to provide tax relief for residents age 65 or older, New York State has taken action on several fronts. Following are three programs which may help ease your tax burden:

The Real Property Tax Exemption

You may be eligible to have your real property tax bill cut in half. This 50% exemption is offered as a local option to homeowners age 65 and over whose annual income is within specified guidelines. To find out if the exemption is in effect in your locality and what the income levels are, you can call the county, city, town or village assessorís office.

The Circuit Breaker Credit Rebate

This is a state tax credit or rebate available to homeowners and renters with a gross annual household income of $18,000 or less. To obtain this tax relief (up to $375 depending on income), you must submit claim form IT-214 to the State Department of Taxation and Finance. You will not automatically receive this credit; you must file for it. Remember, it is not necessary to pay state income taxes in order to receive the credit.

Income Tax Exemption of Retirement Income

The tax law exempts all retirement pension and annuity income up to $20,000 per person per year from state income taxes. You must be at least 591/2 years old to qualify.


Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage

With the expanded EPIC program, elderly New Yorkers can save as much as 60% on their prescription medicines. In most instances, those who qualify never pay more than $20 for a prescription, and may pay as little as $3. If you are 65 or over and have an income of $35,000 or less if youíre single or a joint income of $50,000 or less if youíre married, this program may be for you. For more information, you can call the toll-free EPIC hotline at: 1-800-332-EPIC.

Rent Relief

Section 8 Housing

Under the federal "Section 8" housing assistance program, you may be able to have your rent set at a fixed percentage of your income. To be eligible, you must fall within specific guidelines. For example, your landlord must agree to participate in the Section 8 program and the rental must constitute a "rent hardship" according to standards set in the program. To find out if you are eligible for assistance under the Section 8 program, call the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal or your local Office of the Aging.

Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (SCRIE)

This program is available to people age 62 or over in rent-controlled or rent-regulated apartments and Mitchell-Lama public housing. To be eligible, renters must also pay one-third or more of their income for rent. The income limit can be up to $24,000, depending on where you live. Contact your local government to find out the limit in your locality.

For Your Information

Available Programs

Social Security

Social Security is a form of retirement insurance administered by the federal government. Under this program, workers who retire at age 62 or over or become permanently disabled, receive monthly cash benefits based on previous earnings. These benefits are also available to their dependents or survivors. For more information or to apply, visit your local Social Security Office.

Food Stamps

The Food Stamp Program encourages those on fixed incomes to maintain healthy nutritional practices. If you qualify, you can use food stamps like cash when buying food. To find out how to obtain food stamps, call your local Social Services Office or, in New York City, contact the Human Resources Administration toll-free Infoline at 1-877-472-8411.


Senior nutrition programs, located in community centers throughout the state, offer hot mid-day meals to persons 60 years of age and older. Contributions toward the cost of meals are accepted, but no one is refused because of inability to pay. If you canít get to a nutrition site on your own, ask your local Office of the Aging about transportation. Home-delivered meals may also be available under special circumstances.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Social Security and SSI are not the same. You may receive both Social Security and SSI benefits if your Social Security benefits are below a certain level and if you are aged, blind or disabled. The amount of money you will receive depends upon your income, marital status and living arrangements. Apply for it at your local Social Security Office.

Home Energy Assistance Program

New York Stateís Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) helps pay heating costs. Eligibility is determined by your annual income and household size. To find out more about HEAP, call your local Office of the Aging or the Senior Citizensí Hotline at 1-800-342-9871.


Verizon offers Lifeline reduced rate services, such as the basic plan for $1 per month plus cost of basic calls, if income eligible. Call 890-7100 (toll free anywhere in the stateóno area code necessary).

Co-Op Conversion Protection

Persons age 62 and over in Nassau, Westchester and Rockland Counties are protected from inappropriate eviction in the conversion of rental apartments to cooperative or condominium ownership if their locality has passed a resolution complying with Section 352-eee of the General Business Law.

In New York City, senior citizens and disabled tenants in buildings being converted under an "eviction plan" are now entitled to the same level of services as other residents. The old law had certain income and residency requirements which have been removed for these two groups of tenants.

Half-Fare Tickets

People over 65 are eligible for half-fare tickets 24 hours a day on buses, subways and trains operated by the MTA. To get your half-fare discount, simply show your Medicare card when you purchase your bus ticket or subway token. The only restriction on this program is on commuter rail trains (Long Island Rail Road and Metro North) entering New York City between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. If you donít have a Medicare card, you can obtain a special pass from the New York City Department for the Aging that will allow you to purchase half-fare tickets. The New York City Department for the Aging Helpline can be reached at (212) 442-1000.


Medicare is a federal health insurance program for persons 65 and older and for some severely disabled persons under age 65. Medicare is run by the Social Security Administration and has two different types of benefits:

Medicare Part A provides hospital insurance covering inpatient care and a limited amount of certain post-hospital care at home or in a skilled nursing facility.

Medicare Part B offers supplemental medical insurance to pay part of the physicianís costs, outpatient hospital services and other medical items and services not covered by Part A. Part B insurance is optional. If you are getting Social Security when you turn 65, you are automatically enrolled in both Medicare Part A and Part B. If you are not receiving Social Security, then three months before you turn 65, you need to apply for Medicare. If you miss the initial enrollment period, you may apply in January, February or March of any calendar year, but premiums will be more expensive than if you applied during the initial enrollment period. For those who continue to work and are covered by their employerís health insurance, there is a special enrollment period upon retirement.


Medicaid pays the medical expenses of those 65 or older, blind or disabled who are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or who have too little income or resources to meet their medical needs. Medicaid, unlike Medicare, pays for long-term health care for eligible individuals. It also may pay the cost of Medicare Part B and other private health insurance. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid is a federal/state program of medical assistance administered by counties in New York State. Contact your local Office of the Aging for more information.

Important Phone Numbers

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Senior Citizens Hotline ó Call this toll-free number if you have a problem or need information concerning programs and services for older adults: 1-800-342-9871.
New York City Department for the Aging (212) 442-1322
Senior Citizens Rent Increase Exception (SCRIE) (212) 442-1000
EPIC Hotline 1-800-332-3742
Home Energy Assistance (212)676-9423
Senior Citizens Coordinating Council (718) 320-2066
(718) 671-2066
Office for the Aging Legal Assistance (212) 676-9423
Human Resources Administration InfoLine (212) 639-9675